I turn 35 in a few days. And at 35, I have made enviable strides in life. As such, I ordinarily, should be welcoming my birthday with joy and merry. Sadly, I am unable to do so. My mood is pensive right now. And I know my readers will ask: has this young man lost a relative? Is he unwell? What at all would make a good-looking young man who by any stretch of imagination appears to be doing well in life grieving? I have a simple answer for you. My children’s future is in jeopardy. Our country is in a downhill trajectory.
We are crush-sloping with no rescue in sight. My beloved country is sinking; sinking faster than one could ever imagine. And so, I am in deep sorrow. So sorrowful because an ill that has plagued our nation and needed to have been fiercely resisted by all in order for us to make progress, is not only being left to fester but actually been made the new normal in our society. As if no persons with morals exist in our Republic anymore. Virtually everyone is willing to pay for what ought not to attract payment. That person at the point of serving you is unwilling to do what s/he is paid to do, unless and until you stretch your hand to drop something or show proof of connections to power. That has become the norm rather than the exception. Our inability to build a merit-based society continues to by crystalized with each passing day. So, I am pained that I have to bequeath this society to my children.
While this has continued to characterize our society, those whose hands we have entrusted our destiny into and make them comfortable with the hope that they will lead the charge in purging our society of this ill have become oblivious of it. Or better still, they cleverly feign ignorance of the ravaging corruption and the rising despondency among right thinking Ghanaians. Many believed it was a new down when our president, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo charged Ghanaians to be citizens and not spectators. That call was apt and could not have been made at any better than during his inaugural speech.
Surprisingly, the few that have risen to the occasion two years down the lane have not only been conveniently given the ‘my opponents’ tag, but His Excellency actually leads his team in slamming accusations of corruption in government. Respectfully, I would like to remind His Excellency, in case he has forgotten, that by his actions and utterances one thing is sure: he has become the chief gardener busily watering the seed of corruption to sprout and consume us faster than we have thought. That seeming ignorance or perhaps the unwillingness to deal with corruption ruthlessly and head-on hastens the unending decay of our society. I have no interest in pointing out cases of corruption or perceived corruption in this piece. That is for the politicians to handle. My interest here is to briefly catalogue the glaring cost of corruption in this Republic and call on all of us rise against it.
To start with, in our nation-state, the misuse of state power to achieve goals in illegal, dishonest or unfair ways has become sacrosanct. As such, the state machinery and the economy are not able to function optimally. We are running an inefficient public sector and our economy is experiencing a jobless growth. These and many more continue to cause suffering in the society.
The World Bank has confirmed that, average income in corruption-ridden countries including Ghana is the equivalent of a third of that of countries with low levels of corruption. Even more worrying is that, infant mortality in this country is about three times higher than that of less corrupt countries. It added that literacy levels are 25% lower in Ghana compared to the least corrupt ones. That is what corruption has done to us and will do even more.
We continue pay high prices for low quality. With corruption leading the way deals are made, contracts awarded and economic operations carried out, we have created artificial monopolies in our economy. Business success has become the preserve of those with connections to government to make them the sole providers of goods or services. This is what gives rise to sole sourcing and restricted tendering in procurement in this country. In the process, we create artificial monopolists who do not have to compete against any competitors and so they tend to keep their prices high and are not compelled to improve the quality of goods and services. This is common to anyone who knows this country well enough.
Our resources are inefficiently used. In Ghana, companies that otherwise would not qualify to win tenders are often awarded contracts as a result of tenders that involve kickbacks. This is in sharp contrast to best practice where suppliers offering the best combination of price and quality are selected using a transparent competitive process. Ours is akin to giving the pauper a pound of flesh with one hand and stretching to take it back with the other hand. At the end, we continue to have excessive expenditure in the execution of projects, substandard or stalled projects leading to overall inefficiency in the use of our resources. It is a pitiful situation.
Worsening inequality. Our society has been characterized by a disproportionately small middle class and an unimaginably huge gap between the living standards of the few rich and the majority poor. Given that much of the country’s wealth is in the hands of oligarchs, most of the created wealth flows to these few individuals because small businesses face unfair competition and illegal pressures by large companies who are connected with officialdom thereby worsening inequality.
And finally, social services such as education and healthcare have remained or in fact have become poorer. Evidence has shown that corruption increases the cost of education. In our society, the recruitment and promotion of teachers, school supplies etc are all laced with bribery and corruption. This situation has fizzled out quality as a matter of priority. Our health sector has not been spared. Corruption is traceable in the designation of healthcare providers and recruitment of personnel, as well as the procurement of medical supplies and equipment. This has given rise to low quality of treatment in our facilities and the rampant shortages in medical supplies are lowering the overall quality of healthcare in Ghana.
To conclude, I would like to be emphasize that the low level of overall development in Ghana is not inexplicable. Corruption is both the remote and the immediate cause. It has further been entrenched by the refusal of our leaders to deal with it with the boldness it requires. As a consequence, our living standards are getting lowered by the day. In fact, we are in a quagmire with no hope in sight. Let us rise to the occasion and speak to power. The leaders of this nation owe us the duty to purge our society of this corruption. As a citizen, I am no longer in the position to wait. The long wait is over. We deserve to live in a society that is fair, transparent and rewards creativity. In short, we want to live in a Ghana we can proud of.
Abu Dokuwie Alhassan is a development practitioner passionate about Ghana’s development